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Tales of our Beginnings

Tales of our Beginnings Tales of our Beginnings

Cadott • Cornell • Lake Holcombe areas

Unsafe at Any Speed, Part 1

St. Joseph School was a Catholic one through eighth, grade school, which opened in 1920, built with all volunteer labor. It was located on the corner of McRae and Pine streets, directly west of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church. Staffed with Sisters of the Divine Savior from Milwaukee, the school provided living quarters for the nuns, a chapel, classrooms, library and a cafeteria.

Later, they had their own bus service. Peak enrollment was 250 students in 1960. Students had a recess in mid-morning, a lunch break and another 15-minute recess in the afternoon. In the 1950s, there was a playground with swings, merry-go-round, teeter-totters, monkey bars, a slide, ballfields and a piece of play equipment known as THE GIANT. The official name was the Giant Stride, but to the children, it was just the giant.

The giant consisted of a tall metal pole, from which five long chains hung, each with a metal handle at the end the child hung on to. Then, all five children ran as fast as they could around the pole and swung out into the air. It felt like flying and was great fun, so long as everyone was about the same size, everyone hung on tight and moved at about the same speed. If not, it could be a different story.

If a child flew off, their metal handle flailed around, sometimes striking another child on the back of the head. If children were not about the same size or not moving at the same speed, a larger or heavier child could easily overrun a smaller child, probably knocking them loose from their handle.

And, of course, depending on how fast the child was moving when they lost their grip, the fall could be quite substantial. But, these were hardy children who apparently survived. Research shows that most Giant Strides were banned from playgrounds in the 1960s. (Courtesy of the Cadott Area Historical Society)